Thursday, June 30, 2011


After reading my post Milly, Monkey Toes sister called me and asked, "If mom is Milly, does that make me Silly?"  HILARIOUS!!  So yes, my sister-in-law is now known as Silly (sister in-law love you).  This morning, Silly is going to be having major surgery.  My sisters are coming over to watch the kids so I can be at the hospital.  I may be posting a few times today.

I consider Silly to be one of my sisters.  Just like Milly, Silly has stood by me, no matter what my relationship status with Monkey Toes has been in the past.  She is beautiful on the inside and out.  My favorite "feature" about Silly is her lovely smile (dimples included) and her contagious laugh.  It comes from such an honest place and one can't help but smile when she starts to giggle.  We have shared a plethora of laughter and good times, as well as shared in some struggles.  She is always willing to help with the kids and often knows my needs before I discover them.  She embraces a strong faith and relationship with Christ.  Her journey has been inspiring to share in and watch.  She is a true gem and I love that God has blessed me with this "third" sister - someone who has known me for 20 years and still likes to hang out with me.  I love you Silly!

Monday, June 27, 2011


This morning I woke up and it felt as though I were walking in cement shoes.  The whole morning felt like we were moving in slow motion, despite all that the kids and I accomplished.  We used up the last of our left-over taco ingredients and made quisadillas.  We used our over-riped bananas for banana bread and all of our stale hot dog and hamburger buns for bread pudding.  The left-over ham we added to scalloped potatoes.  I feel so domesticated and thrifty!

Not having posted frequently last week, there are a few memories I want to record.  One morning, Honey Bunches of Oats asked where Auntie B was.  I said, "She left because you kids were driving her crazy!"  He replied, "That's impossible.  We're not even old enough to have our license, so we couldn't drive her anywhere."  Then there was the morning when Auntie B was just standing and Sweet Pea came running towards her, slammed into her and then fell down.  Sweet Pea stood up and yelled that Auntie B pushed her down.  One afternoon Sweet Potato was playing a game on Wii and got so excited that he fell off of the couch.  He quickly stood up and said, "I'm o.k." 

On days like today when I'm tired and a little cranky, it helps to reminisce about fun and silly things my kids have done and said.  Even today, Gummi Bear decided to dress Pumpkin up in an old Halloween costume.  Pumpkin came out of her room dressed as a pirate - bandanna and all.  I wanted to post a picture but the memory card in our camera is missing (grrr).  Honey Bunches came up to me while I was cooking and wrapped his arms around my waist and said, "I love you Mom."  Cucumber saw this and decided to follow suit.  She came up to me, gave me a hug and said, "I love you the most Mamasita."  Amazing how my crankiness dissolves through the grace granted to me by God through my children. 

Thursday, June 23, 2011


Yesterday was the one year anniversary of my Mother-in-law's passing.  As I posted earlier, we gathered for nine consecutive days to pray the Rosary for her, which concluded last night.  The past week has been emotional, uplifting, challenging, and sacred.  Tonight, as my children sleep, I am left with my thoughts and reflections of time spent with family and time spent in prayer.

I first met my mother in-law (whom I will refer to as Milly [mother in-law love you]) 20 years ago.  Monkey Toes brought me to his house after school and Milly had just returned home from work.  She had the most beautiful hair - long, thick and black, all pulled back.  She actually didn't say much to me that day, but we did exchange pleasantries.  It did not take long before Milly was treating me like family.  I was always being invited over for meals and included in family functions.  Even during mine and Monkey's break-ups, Milly continued to befriend me.  I soon realized, that no matter what relationship state Monkey and I were in, Milly would always be my friend.

I have countless stories of how Milly touched my life, inspired me, blessed me with kindness and thoughtfulness.  The one, however, that I treasure the most happened just a little over one year ago.  It was the day my dad passed away and Milly came to our home.  Overcome with emotion, I sat down on the couch and Milly followed me.  In her fragile state, she wrapped her arms around my shoulders and held me.  No words were spoken.  She just let me cry.  Less than two weeks later, Milly entered Hospice.

I had the honor of being with Milly's family as she took her final breath.  She battled cancer for six years.  It may have taken her body, but it never took away her graciousness, her sense of humor, her faith, nor her dignity.  She remained, and always will remain, one of the most beautiful people I have known.

Although I miss her, I do find healing and hope in a faith that we shared.  I am comforted by the stories that are recalled among her children, her family and friends.  I find comfort in knowing that she knew each of her grandchildren and loved them dearly.  I am comforted in that her faith and family were the two most important things in her life, and that we will continue that legacy.  Milly will forever remain in our hearts.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Announcing the Arrival of. . .

Yesterday, Monkey Toes' sister and brother-in-law officially adopted their 5 year old son, Peanut Butter (lovingly named because I love peanut butter and the kid is so darn cute that I just want to bite his cheeks).  It was an amazing procedure to watch.  The actual time spent in court was short, but the experience was powerful.  Tears were flowing, people were clapping, the joy was contagious.  The bright smiles on Peanut Butter and his mom and dad's faces was heart felt.  To witness the joining of these individuals was a true testament to life and the real beauty of the masterpiece we call family. 

Thursday, June 16, 2011


I was up late last night, visiting with Monkey Toes' aunt and cousin who are here from out west.  They will be staying with us for a few days.  The kids also went to bed late and so I had the hope of maybe sleeping a little longer this morning than normal.  I was awoken to a small, sweet little voice crying, "help.  Help please.  Help me."  I walked out of my bedroom and found Sweet Pea in the bathroom.  She had tried to wash her hands and didn't dry them well enough, so her little hands kept slipping off the door knob.  She had a big grin on her face when I opened the door.  So my day has begun in full swing.

Our family is in the process of praying a 9 day Rosary.  We are doing this in honor of Monkey Toes' mom who passed away on June 22, 2010.  It is a cultural tradition in which the family gathers for 9 days leading up to the one year anniversary of the passing of their loved one.  As we have been doing this, I have discovered that not everyone shares the belief, nor understands the importance, of praying for the dead.  I don't think it is just a Catholic practice, as it is Biblical.  2 Maccabees 12 talks about praying for those who were killed in battle at that time.  The bodies were discovered wearing tokens of idols.  Judas and his army blessed the ways of the Lord - the righteous judge - praying that the sin of these men may be blotted out.  The passage concludes with these words:  "For if he (Judas) were not expecting that those who had fallen would rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead.  But if he was looking to the splendid reward that is laid up for those who fall asleep in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought.  Therefore he made atonement for the dead, so that they might be delivered from their sin."  1 Corinthians also talks about one body with many members.  Just because a person has died, death does not remove them from the Body of Christ, but that they continue to serve the Body in very important ways - one in that they can pray unceasingly for us because they no longer have the distractions of this world.  O.k.  There is my catechetical lesson for the day.

I am cherishing this time spent with family, especially those whom we don't see very often.  It has been a lovely reunion, as such, and I know that these days will pass too quickly.  Today is a full day and will be one of great celebration.  I will post about these experiences at a later date.  As for now, I am thankful for this day, grateful for my family, and humbled at God's outpouring of grace and love.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Small Town Living

Monkey Toes and I live in the town where I was raised.  I wasn't born here, but my family moved here in 1982 - I had just completed third grade.  Monkey Toes grew up in the next town over, also moving there when he was in third grade.  I have fond memories of growing up in a small town.  We knew our neighbors very well and watched out for one another.  Going into almost any business, patrons were greeted by name.  The community would pull together in tragic situations, showing love and support for those in need.  We even had a curfew, timed by the 10:00 PM siren.  When that went off, we needed to be off the streets and home.  One of my best child-hood friends lived kitty-corner from our backyard and we would play together daily - almost all day - and often we would wind up spending the night at one another's home.  I think our parents just got use to the idea of having an extra child around.  So, as a young person, small town living was great.

I lived away from home for 10 years.  Once Monkey  Toes and I became engaged, we had both agreed that we would never move back to our hometowns.  The things that we loved about them are also the things that we didn't like about them - having no anonymity, people (other than family) knowing our business, not having the conveniences of bigger cities, etc.  We wanted to live close enough to be able to visit family with ease, but far enough away to live our own lives.  God had a different plan for us, and I can honestly say, I'm glad we listened to Him and followed.

Now that we are raising children, there is no other place I would rather be than home.  My entire family lives within 10 minutes of each other.  It's not unusual for family to stop by any day of the week.  We've even had the experience of being gone and coming home to find family with our coffee pot on, sitting around our kitchen table.  I sincerely love this!  My kids are growing up, knowing and loving their extended family. That, in itself, is worth any of the sacrifices we thought we were making by moving back here nine years ago.   I like going for walks, or bike rides, and waving to almost every car that passes (because we know them).  When my dad passed away, we were abundantly blessed with visitors, food and offers to babysit from people within the community.  So, although the closest Starbucks is 35 miles away, a shared cup of coffee at my kitchen table with a family member or a neighbor is priceless.  As one of my former bosses (and priest) told me a long time ago, "you can take the girl out of the small town, but you can't take the small town out of the girl."  I'm content being who I am.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Type A

I think I am a pretty typical Type A personality.  I like things orderly and in their place.  I am punctual.  In certain situations, I don't like to delegate, because I find it less stressful to just do things myself.  This personality type does not necessarily compliment the life that Monkey Toes and I have opened ourselves up to.  Having a house full of children, I have had to challenge myself to adapt, and not always very successfully.  I find myself more at ease and more able to enjoy life when my house is in order or a "mess" is cleaned up.  I'm always a little envious of those who live by the phrase, "the mess isn't going anywhere, so you may as well enjoy your _____________" (family, weather, etc.).  I tend to think, "yeah, the mess isn't going anywhere and that's precisely why I need to clean it up now."  Don't misunderstand me, my house is far from perfect.  As I type this, I have Raman Noodles stuck to my floor (I usually wait until they dry-up a little.  They're easier to clean up that way) and a mountain of laundry to tackle.  My hallway is lined with kids books (an obstacle course) and there are tiny pieces of paper that keep showing up from my children trying to make confetti. So in an attempt to take a little stress off of me and hopefully begin teaching my kids some responsibility, I have given them a chore chart to follow. 

We all have everyday tasks that should be completed - make beds, dirty clothes in laundry basket, shoes in cubby, and outside toys put away each night before bed.  Then on a rotation are dishes, sweeping, wiping the table, and taking out the garbage.  On certain days will be tasks such as vacuuming and cleaning the bathrooms.  Today is day #4 and I have to admit it is going well.  Since we run the dishwasher before we go to bed, the designated child unloads it when he/she wakes up.  The table gets wiped and the floor swept after each meal.  The trash gets taken out in the evening.  The chart keeps everyone organized and there (so far) has been no argument about who has to do what.  This not only has been good for the kids, but it's a good lesson for me.  I have to learn to let the kids do their chores without constantly looking over their shoulder.  My way isn't the only way (gulp).  Deep down I know that these are skills my children need to learn and truly they are doing a great job.   So less stress for me means a happier mom who has more time to play with my kids and enjoy them. 

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Cold and Chaotic

I'm not sure what is going on with summer, but two days ago we had 102 degree weather and today we were all wearing our fleece jackets outside.  Brrrrr.  We all piled into the van this morning and headed to the cemetery.  The last time I was there I noticed quite a bit of bird droppings on my Dad's and Mother-in-law's gravestones.  So the kids and I came with a bucket and hot,soapy water and rags.  We cleaned up the gravestones and said a prayer at each.  Our original intent was to pray the Rosary at the Grotto, but the kids were complaining that their hands were cold, so we prayed inside the church instead.  They were very reverent and did such a great job.  I was proud of them and thinking to myself that Monkey Toes and I are doing a pretty good job at raising them.  Then, I was humbled and knocked back down to reality upon our return home.  Chaos erupted and I'm not sure why. The kids were so mean to each other.  I sent them outside, hoping they would run around and burn off some of their aggression, but I soon had to bring them in when I heard them screaming at one another.  They marched in and I made them sit on the sofa without talking.  I said, "If you can't say anything nice to one another, then you will sit here and not say anything at all."  While I made lunch, I popped in a Catholic Apologetics CD.  I'm not sure what the kids thought, but I liked it. After long naps, our household was back to normal.  We had snack, we played outside, we ate supper and then off to VBS.  The most memorable quote of the day, once again, came from Honey Bunches.  The kids and I were talking about images of God.  Honey Bunches said, "I think God is a GPS.  He sees the big map and helps us get to the right places."  I asked where he had heard that and he said he just made it up.  Whether that is true or not, it is a very wise thought.  I think I may have to remind the kids of that during our next chaotic day.  Let's just take a deep breath and trust in where God is leading us.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Vacation Bible School

Gummi Bear lost her first tooth Monday afternoon.  I knew it would fall out quickly, as the "replacement" is already growing in behind it.  We were eating lunch (grilled cheese) when she said, "Mom, can you please pull my tooth out so I can eat?"  I reached in and grabbed the tooth with my fingers, gave it a little tug and it was out.  Gummi looked at it and said, "cool" and then devoured her sandwich.

Tuesday morning Gummi came out of her bedroom looking disappointed.  I knew immediately that the Tooth Fairy must have had a busy night and didn't get to our house.  Surprisingly enough, the Tooth Fairy visited while we played outside that afternoon.  She must have felt a little guilty (or maybe didn't have any change) because Gummi found $5 under her pillow.  She was a very happy little girl.

Vacation Bible School began this week as well.  The theme is Pandamania.  This is also the first year that Cucumber is attending.  She loves it.  She came home last night squealing.  Yes, she actually was squealing.  The babies were already in bed when she got home and I was afraid she would wake them up with her enthusiasm.  When I ask her specifics about VBS, she can't remember much, but knows she is having a great time.  Tonight as we were driving home, the kids were singing one of the songs Sing, Sing, Sing.  The lyrics are this:  "Sing, Sing, Sing and make music with the Heavens we will sing, sing, sing, grateful that You hear us when we shout Your praise, lift high the name of Jesus."  Honey Bunches was belting out the song.  When it came to the last line, he sang, "When we shout your praise, hibernate with Jesus."  Is it possible to love this kid more?

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Number 5 turns 3

Sweet Pea turned 3 years old today.  I was out of town the last day and a half, and didn't return home until 8:00 PM.  Monkey Toes baked a chocolate cake and let the kids stay up until I got home, so we could sing Happy Birthday and eat cake together.  Although I was disappointed that we haven't done more to celebrate, Sweet Pea was happy and enjoyed being sung to and blowing out the candles.

We found out I was pregnant for the fifth time- once again by having my yearly cancer screen.  I had gone in for my routine check-up (ultra-sound and blood work).  A few days later (it actually was a Wednesday, because I was getting ready to go to work) I received a telephone call from my doctor.  She told me that my CA125 came back unusually high.  She said that if these numbers are accurate, then they indicate that I have cancer.  She also informed me that I was pregnant.  I hung up the phone and went straight into Monkey Toes arms.  I thought about calling in sick to work, but I had a Reconciliation Parent Meeting that evening that I was in charge of, and didn't think I could cancel it.  So I went to work, muddled my way through the meeting and then drove to my parents.  I sat in their living room and cried.  On my way home that night, I remember praying, telling God that if this was my cross to bear, that I would accept it, but that I would need the courage and strength to do so.

A few days later, my doctor called again and said that she had a conference with the oncologist.  The oncologist said that due to my increased hormone levels, my other tests were probably not accurate.  Monkey Toes and I rejoiced at the news, both of being healthy and once again, preparing to welcome a new life into our family.

Sweet Pea's birth was seemingly easy.  She came into the world with 3 pushes and a healthy set of lungs.  She really had her own, unique look.  She had dark hair and dark eyes like our other children, but she definitely looked like her own person.  Today, she is a peanut - only in the 5th percentile for both height and weight.  I love how she calls me "Honey"  (i.e. "What's wrong Honey?" and  "Can I have something to drink Honey?")  There are days when she thinks she is older than she really is, and yet she loves to snuggle and be held.  She is currently in the stage of "I can do it!"  She enjoys swinging, drawing pictures, going for walks and riding her tricycle.  She is truly a joy whose smile can warm up anyones heart.  Sweet Pea - you are a precious gift who is a blessing to our family.  I love you forever!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

My Dad

Today marks the one year anniversary of my Dad's passing.  There is still not a day that goes by where I don't think about my Dad.  My heart still aches in his absence.  There are still days when I want to reach for the phone and call him or I think he may walk through my door for a visit and a cup of coffee. 

On the morning of June 4, 2010, my sister called me, saying that Dad was unresponsive.  Monkey Toes had already left for work.  I called his cell and he said he would turn around and come home.  In the meantime, my fingers dialed the number of a family I know from church.  I don't think I realized I knew their phone number by memory, but that's what I dialed.  In a few minutes, J was over to watch my kids.  I jumped in my van and headed to the hospital 14 miles away.  I was almost to the hospital when my cell phone rang.  It was my sister asking where I was.  I told her I would be at the hospital in about 5 minutes and she told me that Dad was still at home.  Deep down, I think at that point I knew my Dad had died, but I just wouldn't let my mind go there.  I pulled up to my parent's apartment at the same time my nephew arrived.  I asked what he knew about the situation and he said Grandpa had died.  My knees went weak and my nephew grabbed me and helped me walk into the building.

As I entered my parent's apartment my mom immediately came to me and hugged me and said Dad had passed while praying his Rosary.   I went to my Dad's side and took his hand.  I didn't want to let it go.  From there, the day is a blur.  I remember leaving the apartment and lined up in the hallway were the First Responders.  My sister and I hugged each one and thanked them for being there with my Dad in his final moments.  Many of them cried with us. 

I only record these memories because it is an event that has altered my life forever.  Death is a part of life.  I don't think anything can really prepare a person for its effects.  Through my faith I have hope.  It is a true and real hope that gets me through my days.  It is the hope that my Dad is in a much better place and is pain free.  It is a hope that I will be reunited with him one day.  It is a hope that my Dad may not be here physically, but is with me spiritually.  It is a hope that I (my whole family) have an intercessor who can pray for us unceasingly.

The following is the eulogy I shared at my Dad's funeral.  It is just a small piece of the man my Dad was and the influence he will continue to have on my family and I.

Dad was a son, a brother, a husband, a father, a grandfather, an uncle and a friend to many.  As is testament to all of you here, he touched the lives of many.  Simply put, he loved God, he loved his country, he loved his family – he loved life.

Some of Dad’s passions were Fords, auctions, the NBA, and politics, not necessarily in that order.  He grew up in a Ford loving family and stayed true to that most of his life.  Imagine the shock when his last purchase was a Dodge Caravan.  Our phones were ringing with “Did you hear what Dad has done?”

He enjoyed basketball, playing in his younger years.  He was mine and both of my sisters first coach and biggest fan.   You could hear him yelling from the bleachers “hands up!” and “defense.” He spent many evenings watching the NBA games.  This year he was rooting for the Celtics and pulling for Kevin Garnett to once again claim the championship.  

Auctions were ingrained in him.  He was proud to share that passion with his son, eventually passing on the business to Tim.  Dad had been retiring from auctions since 1985.  Each year he would say this will be my last auction season, and yet he would always be back.  There was always a place for him, whether working the ring, clerking, or giving Tim a break and crying the auction.  He enjoyed meeting new people, learning about them, and working with them. 

As some of you may know, Dad had some strong political convictions.  You could always tell when the conversation in the room had turned to politics because he would become a bit more lively and a bit more outspoken.  He and Arnie B.  enjoyed discussing politics and they shared the belief that this country should have a two party system – the Republicans and the Conservatives.

Dad took delight in so many things;  He adored his grandchildren, he liked classic country and blue grass music, gardening, visiting, coffee with friends, going for drives through the country side, family get-togethers, reminiscing about the good old days, watching EWTN, Fox News and RFD TV, just to name a few.

Dad had a work ethic that was hard to rival.  He always stressed the importance of a firm handshake, looking someone in the eye, and following through on your word.  His philosophy was “always take pride in your work, even if you don’t like the job, because you leave your mark on whatever you do” and “Why put off ‘til tomorrow what can be done today.”  He believed in a hard days work.  There were times when he would put in a full day and come home with little compensation and he would say, “well, that‘s more money in my pocket than I left home with this morning.”  When dad was chief of police, people would often stop by our house wanting to talk with Officer Benoit.  He would take them out on the porch and over a glass of iced tea they would talk like old friends.  When dad came back into the house I would ask, “Who was that?” and he’d say “just someone I pulled over last week.”  He believed in second chances and that people truly could redeem themselves.

Even with Dad’s involvement and participation in so many different facets of life, his greatest legacy is that of faith. He was a man of deep faith.  One of his favorite Bible verses was Joshua 24:15 that says, “Choose you this day whom you will serve; . . .as for me and my house we will serve the Lord.”  We grew up in a home where Jesus was talked about and loved.  Dad may not have been outspoken theologically, but shared his faith by example.  He loved the Mass, attending weekly and on Holy Days, and in retirement, attended daily Mass.  He loved Eucharistic Adoration.  He and mom prayed the rosary daily at 6:30 each morning.  Whenever he was asked what the key to his long lasting marriage was, he replied “God first, Char second, family third and the rest just falls into place.”  He often went to the Poor Claire’s with our family’s prayer requests and would bring them ice cream as an offering.  Many mornings, as I was growing up, I would come downstairs and Dad would be sitting at the kitchen table reading his Bible, even after being out all night on a call.  Each year he looked forward to going on a silent men’s retreat at Kings House to refresh and rest.

Dad believed in the importance of serving others.  That was evident in his service in the National Guard, his career choice of law enforcement and pretty much everything else he became involved with.   He also loved this parish and served on various committees and councils, volunteering his time and talents.  Even in death, Dad continues to serve others.  Through Organ Donation, his eyes are helping someone else see the beauty and the sanctity of life.

Having all of you here today, Dad would be humbled and honored; his family and friends gathered to pay tribute and say farewell to someone whose smile would light up a room.  As one friend shared, “God could see your dad’s great smile in Heaven too.” 

Well Dad, you now have an eternal smile that we look forward to seeing again someday.

We love you Dad!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Satisfying Hunger

As I was putting clothes away this morning, I heard Gummi Bear come in from outside and ask Cucumber if she wanted to go out and play.  Cucumber said she was sick.  So Gummi asked if Sweet Pea wanted to go out.  I said I had to change her diaper first.  Honey Bunches came in and asked Gummi if she found someone to come outside.  I asked what is going on and they both replied in unison, "nothing!"  Yeah right.  I asked Honey Bunches to tell me the truth and he said, "We're just looking for someone to be caught in our trap. . .I mean game."  Gummi Bear was quick to add, "Mom, I promise that no one will get hurt, and if they do, we will all go straight to bed."  I walked over to the window to take a peak and found they had a very unusual contraption set up using the swing-set, a jump rope, obstacle course cones, a tennis racket and sidewalk chalk.  I have nothing more to say about this.

Day number 3 of summer vacation and the source of my anxiety has changed from finding activities for the kids to do (their imaginations are doing a fine enough job of their own), to satisfying their unbelievable hunger.  Other than going for a long bike ride yesterday, I don't think I left the kitchen.  One by one the kids would come in looking through the cupboards and fridge, declaring their starvation.  I decided before bed last night that I would tighten the reigns on scheduling our eating.  Breakfast by 8:30 (allowing the kids to eat as they wake up), snack at 10:00, lunch at 12:30, afternoon snack at 3:30, and supper at 6:00.  I've begun announcing, "the kitchen is closing in 10 minutes."  So far it's working splendidly.  For morning snack I made up a large plate of granola bars, pea pods, carrots and gave them each a juice box.  They polished off the entire "feast."  Seriously, 20 minutes later Sweet Potato asked, "What's for lunch?"  Now, those of you who are wiser, I know that sitting on the tip of your tongue is, "wait until they're teenagers."  Funny - but not very constructive for me.  I think the key will be to stock up on lots of fruits and vegetables and let them have at it.

The past few days have been beautiful, but a bit windy.  Earlier today the kids flew a kite.  It is the best $1 investment we have made this spring.  I will be going back to the store to stock-pile more.  Cucumber was flying the kite for at least 45 minutes and cried when I said she had to let the others have a turn.  I think a day at the park or lake with our kites will be scheduled in the near future.  Of course I'll have to pack a picnic lunch.  At this stage, I wouldn't dream of making plans without food.